Friday, January 9, 2015

The big bad beach, Part 2

Thursday evening, after we got back from dinner, I noticed that Biscuit's forehead and cheeks were really warm. His forehead can be warm without a fever, but any time his forehead AND cheeks are hot, I know he has a fever. 

I almost always carry acetaminophen on trips, so I gave him a dose. He slept well, and by Friday morning, Biscuit was cool again.

Just when I thought Biscuit was good to go, later Friday morning, he threw up a couple of times. Biscuit rarely vomits, so it really shakes him up when it happens. I got him cleaned up, and he said he felt better.

Then Friday evening, he was hot again. I gave him another dose of medicine, but even an hour later, he was still hot. Really hot. And he was splotchy, like he had a rash. And he said his head hurt. And he was rubbing his neck and acted like it was stiff.

So of course, Jeff and I jumped to all kinds of conclusions, including flu and meningitis. It all fit ... fever, rash, stiff neck.

Oh, and did I mention that Biscuit also had a random bug bite on his neck. And that Jeff was convinced he had West Nile or some such?

And of course, that's none of those came to pass. But when you're convinced that something is wrong with your kid, you sort of feel desperate. 

To make matters worse, it was 11 p.m. We knew there was a hospital just over the bridge from the island where we were staying. It's on the main road as you're heading toward the beach. But we also knew that the ER was the LAST place we wanted to be.

I did a little research and found an urgent care center that wasn't far from the hospital. They didn't list their hours on their phone message, so I assumed that they were open. We plugged the address into the GPS, and with Biscuit in his pajamas and coat with a blanket draped over him, we drove to get some help.

We pulled into the parking lot only to realize that the place was closed. We felt defeated and just didn't know what to do. So I called the non-emergency number for the police department. I told them we were on vacation and needed a 24-hour urgent care center, but she said the ER was our only option.

We pulled into the parking lot to find a big ol' mess of construction. They're building a big expansion onto the hospital. We figured out how to get in, and we were greeted by a very nice receptionist. She checked us in, and we found some chairs. Hard chairs with metal arms. Not conducive to trying to cradle a growing boy while he sleeps.

Jeff held Biscuit for a while in about three different positions. Then he passed him off to me. And I flipped him and flopped him and tried to help him be comfortable. Poor Biscuit. He was sleeping, but it was fitfully.

After 2 1/2 hours, the triage nurse called us in. She took vitals on Biscuit and asked us a bunch of questions. She asked a groggy Biscuit some questions, too,, then quickly took a strep swab. Biscuit didn't like that at all!

We were moved back out to the waiting room to wait some more. 

An hour or so later (about 3 a.m.), the triage nurse came and told us she had a room with some recliners that we could sit in until they were ready for us in the ER. It was a welcome relief!

When I stretched out with Biscuit on my lap, I could feel him become dead weight. He was finally really relaxing. And I relaxed, too. As a matter of fact, I got about an hour of sleep.

About 4 a.m., the triage nurse came to get us and escorted us into an ER exam room. We had been at the hospital for five hours and still hadn't had any treatment of any kind.

After the triage nurse left, we were alone for another hour. Not one soul in that ER spoke to us. It was a good thing we had brought in a blanket for Biscuit because nobody there offered us one. Biscuit's medicine (which wasn't working anyway) should've worn off about 2 a.m. That's two hours he was feverish and achy and miserable.

Jeff and I had figured out through eavesdropping that there was a car-wreck victim next door, a cardiac patient across the room and an older man with some pretty serious problems a few doors down. But we sure could've waited more patiently if someone, ANYONE, had come to our door and said, "Hey, we're really slammed tonight, and we'll get to you as soon as we can." But we didn't get that courtesy ... or any other courtesies for that matter.

We were so frustrated. We weren't sure if we were on a list somewhere, or if anyone knew we were even occupying a room. How could we? Nobody had acknowledged us in any way. So Jeff stood at the door to try to catch someone's attention.

A nurse's aide walked by and said, "Sir, are you okay?"

Jeff said, "Yes, but nobody has been in to see us, so we just wanted to make sure our names are on a list or something."

And a nurse, who was walking out of the car-wreck guy's room, said in a really hateful voice, "We are BUSY with serious patients, so we'll get to you when we can."

If I hadn't been so exhausted, I might've traded words with her, but at that point, it just wasn't worth it. Plus, it's not like we were asking them to deal with our feverish child before they helped the cardiac patient. We just wanted to know that SOMEbody at SOME point in the near future was going to take a look at our sick son.

To show you how frustrated we were, I looked it up on my phone to see if insurance would still pay if we left AMA (against medical advice). Once I found out that insurance would not pay (unless a formal investigation could show that Biscuit was being mistreated), we knew we'd have to stay. How sad is it that as sick as our son was, we were considering leaving?!

Finally, about 5 a.m. the one ER doctor walked in. There were 12 rooms in the ER with one doctor.

He flipped open Biscuit's chart and looked a little surprised.

"They haven't taken any vitals," I said. "Actually, not one single person has been in our room since the triage nurse brought us back here."

The doctor looked a little surprised, but he got right to business.

He immediately ruled out meningitis. And by then, the bug bite had all but disappeared. He said Biscuit might have the flu, but there wasn't really anything he could do about it at that point. He told us to give Biscuit acetaminophen, then an hour later, take his temperature again. If it was still up, give him a dose of ibuprofen. He said the combo should take care of it.

"I'll fill out some paperwork, and you'll be good to go," the doctor said.

Well, we waited and waited for about 45 minutes, and we never saw any paperwork. Jeff went out to ask if we needed to pick it up or if someone would bring it to us, and the nurse said she'd bring it once they were done with it.

A few minutes later, a nurse's aide came walking in and started taking Biscuit's vital signs. 

"You don't need to do that," I said. "We're done. The doctor has already been in to see us. We're just waiting on paperwork."

"Oh, they asked me to come in and do it," she said.

I wasn't going to say this to her because she was just doing her job, but there is absolutely no reason they needed to be taking vitals after the doctor had already dismissed us. They were covering their butts! They were getting vitals to put on the chart to say they had done it. It was utterly pointless at that time. I was steaming, but like I said, we were almost out of there.

His blood pressure was high, and his temperature was 103.7. I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible so we could get home and give Biscuit some medicine.

We left the hospital at 6 a.m. on the dot and started driving back across to our island hotel.

I told Jeff that we should ask if we could have an extra hour or two past checkout. It's a small family-owned hotel, and they weren't booked up, so we figured our chances were pretty good.

As we walked into the hotel, we saw a sign on the office door that said they didn't open until 7 a.m. So Jeff went to his parents room, first of all to tell them we were back and that Biscuit was okay, and secondly to see if they would ask for extra time on our behalf once the office had opened.

We gave Biscuit medicine and put him to bed. Then Jeff and I crawled into our bed. We were both exhausted but keyed up at the same time. It was hard for us to go to sleep. The last time I looked at the clock, it was close to 7 a.m.

Jeff's mom gave us a wake-up call at 10:12 a.m. and told us that the hotel would not give us any extra time. So we bolted out of bed and scrambled to get showers, pack and get everything down to the car.

Jeff took the keys down right at 11 a.m., and somewhere between our fourth-floor room and the office, he got mad.

Jeff doesn't get mad very often, so when he does, it's pretty serious. He doesn't raise his voice at all, so he comes off in a really creepy way!

Jeff walked into the office and just kinda lost it.

He slammed the key cards down on the counter, and they promptly bounced off the counter and down onto the desk behind it.

"Checking out of Room 405," Jeff said. 

Jeff started toward the door, trying to bite his tongue, but he just couldn't let it go. He turned around and walked back to the counter.

"Can you answer a question for me?" Jeff asked. "How come y'all couldn't work with us on checkout time since you knew we were at the emergency room with a sick kid for seven hours last night?"

The guy sort of froze, and Jeff said you could see the color drain from his face. 

"We have a strict checkout time policy," the guy said.

"Well your policy sucks," Jeff said and pointed his finger at the guy. "My wife and I have been coming here for 15 years, and we got married on that beach there, right outside this hotel. We've never asked for anything from you. We always leave our room exactly how we found it. And it's not like it's July Fourth weekend. It's January. There were only 12 cars in the parking lot when we got back here this morning. It's a crappy policy. All I was asking was an extra hour or two. It was the decent thing to do, and you didn't do it. This is a nice hotel, but y'all are lousy human beings!"

By the time Jeff got back up to our room to help me push out the luggage cart, he was as cool as a cucumber. He said what he needed to say, and it was done.

We pulled out of the parking lot and headed toward a local diner for some comfort food. After grits, eggs, pancakes, waffles, home fries and some other assorted breakfast items, we hit the road for home.

I had gotten that extra hour of sleep at the hospital, so I told Jeff I would take the first shift driving. I drove about halfway while Jeff slept. Then we swapped off. By that point, I couldn't relax enough to go to sleep. We were so happy to see our bed that night. But because we had to check Biscuit's temperature and give him medicine, we had to set our alarms to wake up at midnight and 1 a.m., then 6 and 7 a.m. And we had to do that Sunday night, too.

Monday morning, I called Biscuit's pediatrician and asked if we could come in. Biscuit was still running a fever, and after an official diagnosis of sore throat and fever from the ER doctor, I wanted to get an opinion from someone I trusted.

Biscuit's doctor said he would bet money that Biscuit was on the back side of the flu. At that point, his temperature was lower than it had been in days, and I could see a little spring in his step.

"It might not mean anything at this point," the doctor said, "but I'm really sorry you had such a hard time at the ER. It sounds like they aren't used to dealing with kids." 

It was a sweet thing for him to say, and I didn't share the fact that there were three babies, three toddlers and Biscuit in the ER waiting room! I wonder if the others got second-rate care, too? It just seems like if they aren't going to take all patients seriously in the ER, they should open an urgent care center at the hospital to handle the not-as-serious patients.

The doctor OK'd Biscuit to go back to school on Tuesday (Monday was a teacher workday). When I picked up Biscuit that afternoon, he seemed to be in good spirits, so I asked him if he felt like going to the store for a few groceries and some household items.

Biscuit assured me that he felt fine, but I found out otherwise about halfway around the store. I said something to Biscuit and got no response. I walked around to the front of the buggy, and saw that he was sound asleep.

We only have one thing to do this weekend, but other than that, we're going to lay low and let everyone recuperate. Rest and sleep will be our weekend's agenda!

So that wraps up the bad part of our beach trip. But there was lots of good stuff, too. And pictures. There are always pictures!

More to come.

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